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The Drum

How England & Wales Cricket made the sport seem less ‘Downton Abbey’ among 16-24 year olds

Threepipe won the ‘Travel, leisure or sport’ category at The Drum Awards for the Digital Industries 2020 with its ‘Express Yourself’ campaign for The England & Wales Cricket Board. Here, the team behind entry reveal the challenges faced and strategies used to deliver this successful project.

The challenge

The England Men’s team were playing in the 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup on home soil for the first time in 20 years and it presented a unique opportunity to raise the profile of the team and drive engagement with a new generation of fans with the game.

Research revealed, however, that the youngest cricket-interested segment (aged 16-24 years) felt detached from the sport. They highlighted a lack of excitement or buzz around cricket – they found it, as one research participant put it, ‘a bit Downton Abbey’.

The overall marketing objectives were to:

  • Drive awareness and reappraisal of the England Men’s Cricket team.
  • Increase affinity and engagement with the team and players.
  • Capture data and followers age 16-24 for post campaign engagement.

The specific KPIs amongst the summer socials audience were to deliver:

  • +5% increase in unprompted player recall.
  • +5% increase in prompted awareness of the master ECB brand ‘We Are England Cricket’.
  • 18k average daily YouTube views (against benchmark of 13.8k).

The strategy

The ECB identified a bullseye target audience segment, which was called ‘Summer Socials’.

This was a young UK based audience aged 16-24 years old in which awareness of the England team was low and in which 40% of those interested in cricket, could not name one England player.

While many still enjoyed playing cricket, they felt a slight disconnect with the professional game and with cricket supporters, who they saw as ‘posh’, ‘middle class’ and ‘a bit boring’. They felt there was a lack of excitement and buzz around cricket, especially across social media, with the result being that it naturally fell off their radar, despite their interest.

We wanted to drive a deeper engagement and excite this younger audience so that they could feel they can share content and talk about the England Cricket team. We wanted to put the team on their radar as an exciting, young team that plays a brand of cricket that is both innovative and expressive.

With this campaign, our ambition was to drive online engagement with and around the England team and the players personalities, so the content and media choices had to feel authentic and aligned with where the Summer Socials were already consuming existing content.

The campaign

‘Express Yourself’ was our multi-channel, digital-led response to this challenge. Positioned authentically to reflect a young, exciting and diverse group of players, the campaign was inspired by the progressive philosophy of team captain Eoin Morgan.

Incorporating unprecedented access to players, content was created to showcase how the team ‘express themselves’ on and off the pitch and to celebrate the transformation the side had undergone over the preceding four years.

We created an authentic, disruptive and highly-shareable content focused campaign that would be delivered and amplified through a highly layered and responsive media plan throughout the tournament.

The key streams of content included:

• Hero film: Coinciding with the unveiling of the England World Cup kit, a hero film asset was created to dramatise the power and individuality of England’s playing style. This had a very youthful and disruptive art direction which extended into all other channels, including the development of over 100 assets for mobile channels.

• Squad Battles: An eight-part video series pitted two teams of England players against each other in challenges including Dizzy Penalties and Sumo wrestling.

• Player Passions: England players were matched with social media influencers with shared interests, including drone racing and FIFA gaming.

• Partnerships: Bespoke editorial content was created in partnership with SPORTbible and Josh Denzel, a sports presenter and influencer.

• Teammates: A regular drip feed of behind the scenes content sharing insight into the England dressing room and hearing players describe each other in their own words.

A key focal point of the campaign was to drive our target audience to a mobile-optimised, digital hub which hosted all the campaign content and wider player profile and tournament information.

The results

The campaign surpassed all targets for its cricket-interested, 16-24 year-old audience:

• Average daily YouTube views: 43k, 138% higher than 18k target.

• Unprompted player recall: 9% increase v +5% target.

• Prompted brand awareness: 8% increase v +5% target.

More broadly, the campaign helped to put cricket back on the map and set ECB engagement records:

• 3m views for ‘Squad Battles’ content across all platforms.

• 1.8m social media engagements during the World Cup final (44% higher than previous ECB record).

• Over 7.5m YouTube views with a completed engagement rate of more than 30%.

• Over 400k people visited the ECB campaign digital hub throughout the tournament.

The Express Yourself campaign helped to create a platform for engagement upon which cricket built successfully:

• August: ECB ranked the No.1 UK sport channel on YouTube (Source: Tubular Labs).

• October: This was the most successful on-sale period in ECB history for men’s 2020 International matches (Source: Two Circles/ECB Sales Records).

“Threepipe contributed massively to the success of this campaign which has built a real legacy for cricket in this country. The distribution and targeting strategy of the content led to fantastic engagement with an audience we were keen to reach.” -Chris Heasman, marketing manager, England & Wales Cricket Board

This project was a winner at The Drum Awards for Digital Industries 2020. To find out which Drum Awards are currently open for entry, click here.